I don’t generally buy strategy guides for video games, but I was so smitten with Horizon Zero Dawn that I preordered the guide at the same time I preordered the game. Part of the reason I felt comfortable doing so, is that it’s published by Future Press. I’m familiar with their work via the Dark Souls strategy guide, which I got on clearance, and which blew me away with its quality. (By comparison, Prima Games guides have always left me feeling meh.)
The Physical Thing
The book itself is a 656 page, hardcover, tome for the ages. The front features a gorgeous image, my favorite part of which is the gull perched atop the Thunderjaw’s back. It’s predominantly white and light blue which contrasts beautifully with the black binding. The back cover is solid white with a symbol above the words ZERO DAWN; if the symbol has any special meaning, I don’t know what it is. The binding itself seems quite sturdy and includes a placeholder ribbon.
Upon opening the book, we’re greeted with a clean black flyleaf. Following that are a foreword, chapter overview and table of contents, all black themed. Again, this is done to contrast the core of the book, which is predominantly white. Aesthetically, it works very well. I was particularly impressed with the forward, which really gives you a sense of how passionate Future Press is about their books.
Playing the game for months to search out its every secret was a joy – the visuals, the story, the combat and the world all come together perfectly. It’s obviously a game its creators loved spending those years making, and we hope it’s just as obvious that this is a book we loved spending months putting together.
The book is broken into seven chapters: Training Manual, Hunting Guide, Hunting Targets, Quest Guide, Region Guide, Hunting Gear and The Notebook. In the chapter overview there is a much appreciated blurb regarding spoilers and how to use the book so as to avoid them. Another nice touch is that the included foldout map has a complete icon legend that’s visible while the map is folded.
Chapter 1 Training Manual covers all the basics of the game at a high level. It breaks down the HUD; saving and loading; leveling and advancement; and health and the medicine pouch. In regards to that last one, there’s a nice table that shows all the different medicinal herbs, where they tend to be found and how much they fill the medicine pouch.
Some other things covered in chapter 1 include Photo Mode; using the Focus; a thorough breakdown of movement; navigation; quests; items, looting and crafting; and the basics of combat and stealth. Seeing as I was already deep into the game before getting the strategy guide, there wasn’t a ton for me learn from chapter 1. That said, I did benefit from the fall damage explanation as well as an explanation of invincibility frames during dodge rolls.
Chapter 2 Hunting Guide is quite extensive, delving into the details of combat. It is itself subdivided into three sections. The first section explains the various damage types, and in particular, does a very nice job explaining status effects, severity and threshold. I had a vague understanding of how status effects work, but now I know what the numbers mean and what they need to add up to in order to apply a status effect on the various categories of machine. It’s very useful information when it comes time to mod your weapons.
Some other topics touched upon in the first part of the chapter are how machine armor plating works to absorb damage; machine components and weakpoints; component loot; machine perception; knockdown, tumble and tie-down; traps and potions; and finally outfits. Of particular note, the difference between knockdown and stun from shock damage is explained (with the exception of critical hits, stun duration is unaffected by damage to a stunned machine). Also, after killing a specific type of machine so many times, it permanently evolves into a more powerful version. Hunh, TIL.
The second section of chapter 2 provides a thorough explanation of all the skills along with advice on how to get the most out of them. The final section covers weapons. About four pages are devoted to each one, offering a detailed explanation of the weapon’s mechanics, ammunition types, recommended modifications, skill synergy and of course, proper use. The heavy weapons that Aloy can temporarily pick up during battle are also discussed.
Chapter 3 Hunting Targets describes each enemy in the game, including machines, humans, unique NPCs and wildlife. The bulk of the chapter is taken up by the machine entries, each one of which has a section on armor and components, loot, attacks and strategies. I can’t overstate how thorough a treatment each machine gets. The image below shows how each and every attack of each machine is detailed.
Chapter 4 Quest Guide is the longest chapter in the book; it details every quest, side quest, errand and activity. I’ve avoided reading this particular chapter, but I can tell you that each quest includes a detailed walkthrough, encounter maps and strategies. Towards the end of the chapter is an extensive (10 pages) recommended game and skill progression outline.
Chapter 5 Region Guide reveals the location of every datapoint and every collectible, and it’s incredibly well organized. If you’ve collected things out of order, it matters not. The first two pages of the chapter will tell you exactly what page to go to in order find the location of whatever it is you’re missing.
Chapter 6 Hunting Gear
Presented for your reference is every usable item that Aloy can collect on her long journey. Whether you want to know whether to keep an item for later, need something to craft more ammo or can’t remember which Merchant was offering the item you require, this chapter will be your one-stop source of information.
Chapter 7 The Notebook is another chapter I have thus far avoided. Here’s Future Press’s description of it.
Spoiler Warning: stay away from the following pages unless you’ve either seen Aloy’s quest through to the end or don’t mind learning about important plot points in order to get information about unlocking Trophies. That said, we’re proud to present the in-depth character and story material found in this chapter, alongside interviews with Guerrilla Games and a very special summary of Aloy’s story so far.
The book is printed in glorious full color on thick page stock. Each chapter is loaded with images, diagrams and tables that present the voluminous amount of information in as easy a way to digest as possible. The layout is clean and invokes the aesthetic style of the game itself. I also find the main text font to be extremely easy to read. Included at the end of the book are two things I greatly appreciate: an index and a two-sided, foldout poster of the HZD game world.
If you’re still with me, over a thousand words from where we started, it’ll come as no surprise that I think this is an amazing book. It has tremendous value both as a strategy guide and a collector’s item. If you’re a fan of Horizon Zero Dawn, this purchase is well worth the money.